49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: Kevin Givens gives D-line versatility

Kevin Givens #60 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Kevin Givens #60 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

49ers defensive lineman Kevin Givens has plenty of versatility, which helps his roster chances in 2020.

San Francisco 49ers then-rookie defensive lineman Kevin Givens made a solid name for himself on the deeper parts of the team’s roster during the 2019 preseason, appearing in all four games and starting one, while racking up four tackles before failing to make the 53-man roster ahead of Week 1.

Yet the Niners placed him on the practice squad shortly thereafter, eventually promoting him to the regular-season squad in late December of last year where he appeared in his first game, cracking the stat sheet with a single tackle.

Heading into his second pro year, Givens arguably has a better shot at hanging around the deeper parts of San Francisco’s 53-man roster in 2020.

One of the reasons is because of Givens’ versatility, having played a variety of positions during his four-year collegiate career at Penn State, which resulted in a pretty solid pass-rush ability from the interior:

Kevin Givens Defense & Fumbles Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles
*2015Penn StateBig TenFRDE
*2016Penn StateBig TenFRDT131215277.55.0000120
*2017Penn StateBig TenSODT11914234.03.5000211
*2018Penn StateBig TenJRDT1219143310.55.0000100
CareerPenn State40438322.013.5000431

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2020.

While Givens’ 6-foot-1, 285-pound frame limits him to primarily inside roles at the pro level, the experience from lining up anywhere on the defensive line has some merits. And even with the Niners’ deep D-line a year ago, Givens was at least able to earn some praise as a potential dark-horse addition in 2019.

That didn’t materialize, at least not until December. But the context of San Francisco’s defense entering 202 could mean more opportunity for Givens this season.

Niner Noise looks at how this could happen in our latest “Who Is?” installment on the 2020 roster.

Why Kevin Givens improves with 49ers in 2020

It’s important to note Givens made some headway at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, as Pennlive.com’s Greg Pickel pointed out:

"[Givens] bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times, which put him among the top players at his position in that event.Sunday, he initially ran a 5.09 40-yard dash, which was hardly a problem but not eye-popping. His second run, however, was initially clocked at 4.87 seconds with an elite 1.59 10-yard split, which would have equaled that of two-time college All-American and seven-time Pro Bowl pick Von Miller at his Combine."

His speed wasn’t consistent, per se, but the burst can be there. And combined with strength, it wouldn’t be hard to see why Givens might be a versatile piece.

Especially considering the Niners’ offseason loss of another depth player along their defensive front, Sheldon Day, who was the primary backup to starting nose tackle D.J. Jones last year.

If Givens showcases his ability to serve in this kind of role, he’ll earn plenty of those valuable second-team reps in training camp.

Why Kevin Givens regresses with 49ers in 2020

There are a few things to worry about Givens’ prospects for finding a regular role at the NFL level.

While San Francisco likes short, squatty 1-technique defensive tackles, Givens’ smallish frame could still translate to him getting pushed around by bigger offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage. And his frame is as such where he can’t add too much more functional muscle despite displaying a notable performance in the bench press at the combine.

On top of that, Givens does have that versatility so necessary for backup players, which is nice. Yet the adage might be for him: a jack of all trades, master of none.

Simply put, Givens is OK in a lot of different areas, but he doesn’t necessarily excel in one particular facet, which will hurt his chances.

Especially considering a number of other depth linemen are going to be vying for those few spots on the roster.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2020

The fact the Niners promoted Givens late in the season and held onto him into the playoffs is meaningful enough, suggesting he was one of the go-to players to be considered when San Francisco started suffering D-line attrition late in the year, such as losing Jones.

Yet the team also inked veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell late in the season, too, so make of that what you wish.

One of Givens’ primary competitors is fellow defensive lineman Kentavius Street, on whom the 49ers used a fourth-round draft pick two years ago. Street’s injury history has prevented him from making much of an impact, so that could ultimately work in Givens’ favor in training camp.

But if Street showcases all the reasons why he was drafted despite his pre-draft injury, Givens will likely be the odd man out.

Next. 5 Niners players who must step up in 2020. dark

The prognosis right now suggests Givens is on the weaker side of the bubble heading into training camp. Yet if he winds up impressing enough, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him as one of those not-so-surprising adds to the back end of the roster.